Blog: The precept, what the extra money will deliver?

This year’s annual council tax and budget setting process has been particularly challenging for us because for the first time since I was elected as Police and Crime Commissioner, the police funding settlement was delayed. Normally the Home Office announces the central funding grant and the levels of any council tax increase around the middle of December. This year, because of the general election, I was not informed until January 21st, and, as my recommendations have to be agreed by the Police and Crime Panel, which met on January 31st, matters were somewhat fraught.
We prepared our budget based on a number of assumptions while we waited for the settlement, which was a sensible approach, but not ideal. Making major decisions under such circumstances is unreasonable and I’ve made my feelings very clear to the Police and Fire Minister.
That said, I am pleased with the government’s commitment to increase the police budget and recruit 20,000 extra police officers nationally – known as Operation Uplift – over the next three years. This step-change in approach is very welcome and good news for homes and businesses in Suffolk.
Operation Uplift will give Suffolk 54 more police officers by the end of March 2021 and a total of 170 additional officers by March 2023. The Chief Constable and I are finalising the details of where these officers will be deployed – our initial plans are published on our website (details below) but it is important to recognise this is the first year of a three-year programme.
When we finally received our settlement late last month, PCC’s were advised the policing element of your council tax could be increased by a maximum of £10 per year for a band D household – an increase of 4.69% in Suffolk. And that is what did. This will increase the policing budget to £143.82m for the next financial year. It gives me no pleasure whatsoever to increase taxes and as always, there was a difficult balance to be struck when making that decision.
The precept increase will enable the Chief Constable to strengthen investigation support for the Sentinel teams to continue to tackle cross-border criminality; seven additional officers will form a Serious Crime Disruption team to work across the county – doubling the existing resource; an additional officer will be added to the Rural Crime Team; additional officers will be added to the Outcome Resolution team which works with convicted offenders to identify other offences they may have committed and a new commercial traffic unit will operate on our major roads to help keep road-users safe and the traffic flowing. More detail, listing all the specific benefits of the precept increase is on my website,
Last year’s increase provided funding to employ 29 additional officers and 45 staff and this additional capacity is already achieving some excellent results countywide. The three proactive Sentinel teams have already made more than 200 arrests and there are now eight more officers based in Ipswich. Throughout 2019 details we published updates on how your council tax was spent and the results delivered and in 2020 I will ensure exactly the same feedback process is adopted.
And yet we all know there is so much more to be done to maintain the county’s reputation as a safe place in which to live and work and help secure that economic growth businesses need.
I believe the combination of Operation Uplift and the council tax rise will improve trust and confidence in policing, get criminals off our streets (not just in the main towns but in rural areas as well) and get them behind bars where they belong. The focus on gang and drug related crime will continue unabated since it remains the most serious threat we face in Suffolk.
Please look at our website for the details of what the extra money will deliver – and just so you know, I am still lobbying and doing whatever I can to have the police funding formula reviewed and deliver a fair deal for Suffolk.

Published in the EADT Business Magazine  February 2020